Always leave them wanting more.
It’s the first rule of show business, and few — if any — players in Vanderbilt basketball history have been more entertaining over a four-year period than Jeffery Taylor. Right from the outset, beginning when he was a freshman, the 6-foot-7 swingman consistently electrified crowds at Memorial Gymnasium with his ability to dunk a basketball.
Suddenly, though, he is a senior and all that is left for Taylor are two regular-season basketball games and then whatever else he and his teammates can muster in the all-or-nothing world of tournament play. The Commodores’ final home game is Tuesday against Florida, and the schedule wraps Saturday at Tennessee.
Even at this late stage there is, in fact, more that Taylor can do. And chances are he’s not thinking of walking off the collegiate stage without doing all he can — at least once.
In fact, it’s tough to think of a better way for him to complete his career than with the one thing that has been, up until now, notably absent from his repertoire — a buzzer-beater that lifts the Commodores to victory. Why not actually do it at a time of year when the college basketball world is breathless in anticipation of just such events?
Let’s pause for a moment to be clear about one thing: None of this is meant to suggest that Vanderbilt is a one-man team.
It’s quite the contrary. This group, which includes five seniors and high-scoring junior John Jenkins, is guaranteed a place in history because of its willingness to stay together at a time when more and more players jump at their first chance to get their money.
Taylor, though, is just a little something different. He is a well-rounded, versatile presence on a team filled with players who are much better in some areas than others, as most players are.
He’s not just good at everything. He’s really good at everything, and it’s not by accident.
His athleticism was obvious even to the untrained eye from the first moment he took the floor in a Vanderbilt uniform. That was enough for him to establish himself as an NBA prospect.
Ever since, he has methodically and purposefully added elements to his game. Beginning with his sophomore season, he was a defender who could completely take an opposing player out of the offense. His junior season featured the first significant increase in assists, and this year he finally has developed a reliable — at times spectacular — 3-point shot.
The result is that he is near the top of Vanderbilt’s all-time leaders in virtually every category you can imagine.
For all he has accomplished, though, the prevailing image is that of Taylor sitting on the bench, dejected in the moments following a tough loss, as has been the case a couple times already this season, including Kentucky’s visit to Memorial and the overtime loss to Mississippi State.
As he headed into Saturday’s game at top-ranked Kentucky, he never had a chance to celebrate a heroic moment à la Shan Foster or Barry Goheen or Phil Cox or the others for whom Memorial has been a magical place.
Truth be told, the most notable prestidigitation Taylor has performed has been a disappearing act in big games. The numbers he so routinely puts up seem to vanish when it matters most.
Given the manner with which he has conducted himself and the diligence with which he has expanded his game, he deserves better.
No, he deserves more. And college basketball fans everywhere should want more for him now instead of more from him once he’s gone.